Archive for September, 2016

Out of Touch for 10 Days

Tomorrow, Sunday, Sept. 25, begins our trip to minister on Buvuma Island out in Lake Victoria. We will be there ten days. There is no internet service out there, so we will be out of touch until we get back.

Please pray for us as we cross the water tomorrow on the ferry – we’ve had a lot of heavy storms lately that come up quickly and are violent. Please also pray for the pastors coming by motor boat to the Lake Victoria Bible Institute that Gail and I will teach for five days.

See you in ten days. Thanks for your support. Bob and Gail

It’s hard in Uganda to tell much about a person’s character until they open their mouth a few times or you’ve had a chance to interact with them a little. Even then, some are experts at fooling you and hiding their dark side behind a veneer of wolfish smiles and faux helpfulness.

Take Pastor Damon (name changed to protect the guilty) who drove us to a distant village way out in the boondocks, then had to be bribed to wait and take us back (see 2  posts ago – “OK, But a Bit Short”). We would have been stuck there with no possibility of a ride and I suspect he was using that. When I offered to pay him to wait for our business to be done, he smiled big and said he could not take money because we were brothers in ministry.  Then he proceeded to tell me that he had been planning to drive his many children to their school in a distant city that afternoon, so perhaps I could pay for the car he would have to hire to take them instead if he stayed to help us.

He kind of had me over a barrel, so I agreed. He then charged me about double what I wanted to pay, or thought was fair, but…remember the barrel. So I paid him.

Here’s the thing. There were no children that needed to be driven to a distant city to go to school. His story really didn’t ring true. But this way, he got to retain his brother-in -ministry image AND take advantage of the musungu over the barrel at the same time. Who could resist such a deal?

Then he insisted all the way back to town that he wanted to fleece me in ministry…excuse me, I meant to say, work together with me in ministry. Hmmm, probably not.

Now, for contrast, consider Alfred, my assistant, companion, friend, and interpreter here in Uganda. He’s worked for me about three years now and has proven himself to be of the solid gold character type. Experience tells me this, but so does my wife, who has good judgment in such matters. Recently, though, I got a further validation of our discernment and experience.

He once drove for a sort of taxi service here in Bugembe, a suburb of Jinja.  While he worked there, he got to know most of the other drivers, and now, when we are driving around, he often pulls up to some car, rolls the window down and exchanges greetings with the driver.

As it happened, Gail needed one of these drivers to take her to Kampala last week. So Alfred set her up with Ahmed, an Islamic driver that he trusted well. When Ahmed arrived, he greeted Alfred warmly like an old friend but called him “Mulokule” (Moo-low’-koo–lee). Later I asked Alfred why he called him Mulokule. He said that Ahmed and he were good friends from the time he worked at the taxi station, but that Ahmed doesn’t remember his real name – he just always calls him Mulokule.

When I asked Alfred what Mulokule means, he told me it means, “the Christian one.” He said Ahmed also sometimes calls him Pastor – Alfred is not a pastor. Now this is interesting because many of the drivers would claim to be Christians, but Ahmed only calls Alfred Mulokule, and he observes his conduct from an Islamic perspective.

Alfred’s character is speaking for itself. He stands out. He stands out because his character matches his testimony, and does so obviously enough even to impress a person from a different religion.

Alfred is what this Christian thing is all about.

How Many Shillings Is A Soul Worth?

I had a very interesting experience with corruption at a minor level while getting Gail a Ugandan phone. We were helped by a clerk who had very good English and indicated that she was a believer during our conversation about the various choices. After the purchase she accompanied us out to a table in front of the store where a phone company rep was selling airtime. In Uganda when you sign up for phone service with a new phone, you have to register the phone, and it’s a bit of a process. It took about thirty minutes.

The clerk, a woman about 35 years old, was standing by watching the registration process, even though the phone purchase was complete. When it came time to get a photocopy of Gail’s ID, she jumped in and volunteered to take the ID to the photocopy shop, which was right next to the phone store. The smallest amount I had was a 1,000 shilling note – about 35 cents – which I gave to her. Now since this isn’t my first rodeo, I know that a photocopy costs 100 shillings, and I watched her closely so there were no shenanigans with the ID. After a few minutes, she came back with the photocopy and handed it to the man.

I waited, expecting her to return the balance of 900 shillings to me. She had her fist closed firmly around the change and acted very nonchalant until it became obvious that she did not intend to return the money. I’m sure she thought the musungu would not know how much a copy cost.

Finally, I said, “Were you going to return the balance, or were you going to keep it?” She acted very surprised, and laughed nervously. Then, and her brazenness still amazes me, she reached out her hand to me and very quickly and deliberately dropped a 500 shilling coin into my hand, smiling as if all was well with the world. By my count, I was still 400 shillings short.

Now don’t get me wrong. Every day, I fend off attempts to extract  much larger amounts, so 400 shillings is as nothing, and even in Uganda, 400 shillings doesn’t buy much.  I have tried to become very careful, as “wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove” about it all. Sadly, it’s the culture for many here to take advantage of the musungus. I don’t like it, but I’m not going to change it by overreacting to it when it happens.

But the complete impudence of this woman that I had just purchased a phone from, to do such a thing for such a small amount right in my face, was just too much. She was willing to sell her soul in open deceit for the equivalent of twelve cents. Think of it!

So I prayed about what to do.

As I prayed, and Gail continued to fill out and sign forms, the clerk casually walked back into the store and came back out just a minute later, but her hand was now unclenched, so she had off-loaded her ill-gotten gains. Now if the Lord had told me to just let it go, I would have. But He didn’t say that. What He told me to do was to return the 500 shilling coin to her, and he told me what to say.

So I handed her the coin and said, “Here’s the rest of the balance. Since you’ve decided to keep some of it, now you have all of it.” I looked into her shocked eyes and said, “But, I think, honesty is always best, don’t you?” Then I turned back to Gail.

What happened next is telling. She held the coin between thumb and forefinger like it was a cockroach or a spider. She literally did not know what to do with it. After some obvious inner struggle as she considered the coin, she carefully placed it down on the table in front of her and walked back into the shop.

When we left fifteen minutes later, the coin was still there.

I am now praying about whether I am to return to her and share any more with her. As we left,  I went in and thanked her for her service. Perhaps God is using this incident to open her heart.

OK But a Bit Short

Well, I would love to be writing posts every day, but it’s hard to do so when there is no electricity and your battery is low. I’m sitting in the dark right now at 8 pm Uganda time – apparently a transformer blew several days ago. I think I know which one it was: it has to be the one that has been fritzing the lights off every half hour or so ever since we arrived. Then after a period of darkness, they would fritz back on for awhile. Now, however, the lights have been off for two days straight.

The only reason I’m able to write this post is that today (Monday) was my first day teaching and I powered up the computer battery with my generator, which I use to power the computer and projector for my presentations.

It’s the beginning of rainy season here, so perhaps the hard rain got to the transformer, and finished it off. No telling when they’ll get it repaired. One more day and I will have to move into the city (Jinja) and pay higher guesthouse rates just so I can work on my computer at night.

The trip so far, 5 days in, has been pretty typical. Lots of time spent finding a dependable vehicle. I had the same conversation with the current renter that I have with each of them: “OK, what will you do if this car breaks down on the side of the road? Will you come with another vehicle?”

“Oh, no, sebo (sir), this cannot happen. You will have no problem with this vehicle. It cannot be.” Now I’m sure if you’ve been following my adventures for even a short time, you can pretty much tell where this story is going.

Sunday morning we loaded up and headed out to the village where I was scheduled to preach in the little church where I will be teaching this week. Fifteen kilometers (about ten miles) down the road, the wheel bearings went out and we pulled to the side with a horrible grinding noise. There we sat for almost two hours before rescue arrived. “Rescue”  was the “owner” of the vehicle (you never really know for sure who owns the vehicle you are renting) who was now going to drive us to our destination.

So we offloaded and on loaded leaving our rented vehicle to be taken to a mechanic in the next town. We finally arrived at the distant village, a full hour of painfully bumpy dirt roads off the main road. We arrived about 12:05 to find that the pastor was “holding” the service for our arrival so that I could speak to them.

However, as I climbed out, I became aware that the driver was planning a quick turnaround – this means that he planned to leave us there and return to town to go on with his business. Now we were WAY back in the villages, miles from the main road, and his plan was to leave us there to fend for ourselves with no transportation of any kind available. So I was forced to negotiate with him additional payment, even though I had already paid to rent his vehicle which did not function, just to get him to stay until we were finished and then take us back to town.

So, like I was saying, overall a pretty typical beginning of this eight weeks in Uganda. This is Gail’s first time to be here for an entire trip (Gail is my dear wife), so this was a good way to break her in.

BTW, the preaching was OK but a bit short.